Anne Robinson slams woke culture as she swears to not make Countdown players cry
Her sharp-tongued put-downs on The Weakest Link saw TV presenter Anne Robinson dubbed "the Queen of Mean".
But new Countdown host Anne reckons she couldn’t get away with the acid quips she delivered back then thanks to "woke" culture.
The 76-year-old presented The Weakest Link between 2000 and 2012.
One episode saw her ask a female contestant why she was "dressed like a lesbian", while in another she quizzed a single mum about how many of her three boys had ASBOs.
Anne says: "I think there are certain things you couldn’t say now. It’s particular areas that 'woke' wouldn’t allow.
"It’s hard to pinpoint what I would or wouldn’t say – it’s just a general consciousness that you have to think much more carefully.
"I feel increasingly some very rowdy minorities tie our hands behind our backs. The minorities who tell me I can’t say this and I must say that. And I don’t want statues pulled down."
While Anne is in favour of improving diversity in general, she feels some groups in society take it too far.
And after advertisers pulled slots from the recently-launched GB News channel last week following pressure from activists, she was happy chief presenter Andrew Neil spoke out to accuse them of being "easily cowed".
Anne says: "When charities get frightened, when broadcasters get frightened, it’s all going the wrong way.
"I’m really cheered by Andrew Neil challenging advertisers who decided that they couldn’t advertise on his channel. And some of them have come back cap in hand. I’d like to see a lot more of that."
Lancashire-born Anne credits a career in newspaper journalism with making her tough. And she doesn’t have time for tears – hers or anyone else’s.
"Crying is for when your dog dies," she scoffs. "Crying is a whole area in itself because a lot of girls cry if you get cross with them.
"It deflects from the criticism and everyone forgets what they’re telling them off for and say, 'no don’t cry!' I don’t think crying is a particular barometer for unhappiness. Some people cry at Lassie films.
"I hate it when people say she made me cry – it doesn’t necessarily mean someone has said something really horrible to you."
So people should toughen up then?
"It helps if you’re dealing with me, yes," says Anne.
Anne is taking over from Nick Hewer as the sixth host – and first female presenter – of Channel 4’s Countdown from Monday, joining Dictionary Corner’s Susie Dent and pregnant maths expert Rachel Riley.
It won’t be her first stint on the show, though – she appeared in Dictionary Corner for a week in 1987 rocking a fetching Bay City Rollers-style hairdo.
"I was offered this job and thought that would be fabulous," says Anne.
"When they said you’ll be the first woman I just groaned because we should be past that.
"We’ve had a couple of shows where it’s been two female contestants and a Dictionary Corner guest who’s female and we were looking at six women in the studio and we did punch the air."
Anne has never been fazed by any sexism she’s encountered in her career and tells of her time as a young reporter in a newsroom where male staff would drop her work on the floor. "Then you’d pick it up so they could see your knickers," she says.
"I just remember thinking these guys are pathetic and very soon I’ll be in charge of them all. It didn’t wash to be victims. I never went to the loo to have a weep. I’ve never stopped to think: 'Gosh I’m going to be the first woman'. I just put one foot in front of the other, really.
"In my day you were in the minority and you were likely to be the toughest woman, and now very clever women aren’t all tough.
"Some of them are fragile and easily wounded by the treachery of the workplace."
Anne, who previously presented Points Of View and Watchdog, isn’t on social media. She says: "It’s only goingto tell me people don’t like me so what’s the point? What can I do with that information? If I was on social media I’d only meet all those people who can’t stand me and I’d much rather pretend that everyone thinks I’m fabulous.
"I do care if people think I’m not any good at what I do. I don’t care if they think I’m ugly. If you’re a television presenter I’m well aware people either really like you or can’t stand you.
"I just don’t see the point of people on Twitter getting upset. They don’t have to have it, no-one pays you anything to write on Twitter. All those hours you could be listening to beautiful music or reading. I don’t do anything that involves my laptop more than writing on it for emails and work."
Earlier this year, radio presenter Vanessa Feltz accused Anne of making a racist remark to her when she was a contestant on The Weakest Link. She claimed Anne asked her: "Looking the way you do, how do you think you land all these big black boyfriends?"
Vanessa added: "I said, 'I don’t think you will use that in the show as it’s racist and also completely inaccurate and in every way unsuitable.'
"I’m not complaining but it wasn’t quite what I said," says Anne. "What I actually said to her was: 'How can someone like you attract gorgeous black boyfriends?'
"First of all, she talked endlessly about doing just that. Secondly, it’s taken her 16 years to discover she was upset about it. Maybe if I had a radio show I might have done the same.
"Certainly we heard nothing for 16 years and I probably couldn’t say it now. But it wasn’t derogatory, except to her."
Anne Robinson presents Countdown every weekday at 2.10pm from Monday on Channel 4.
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